Penny’s journey – After nine years (nine lives?) cat returned home

January 2022 Posted in Other, Pets

By Melissa Wagoner

Bobbie the Wonder Dog may have met his match in the form of Penny, Pratum Elementary School’s Christmas cat.

Steve and Kathleen Carlson reunited with Penny after nine years.

“[Y]ou just can’t make this stuff up,” Pratum Elementary School teacher Lisa Freauff said of the story, which began during the Christmas break of 2021 when she heard a cat “yelling” from the empty school’s supply room.

“That’s really the only way to describe how she was meowing,” Freauff said. Recalling that, once she was able to locate the cat, it was very apparent she was in distress.

“She seemed very scruffy and very anxious to get my attention,” Freauff said. “But she wouldn’t totally follow me. She was a bit hesitant to come out. She didn’t look great. She was rubbing up against the doorways and seemed like she was someone’s pet.”

Pet or not, Freauff knew the cat had to go and so she gathered her courage, picked her up and set her outside in the hopes that she would soon find her way back home.

“At that time, I actually did not know she had been hanging around,” Freauff – who later discovered that Penny had been seen, not only on the grounds of Pratum Elementary but also on the properties of various students for over three weeks – said. Noting that, if she had, she may not have been as surprised by what happened next.

“I was not back in my room very long before I heard the cat – again! She had practically beaten me into the building. That was when I knew I needed help to find somewhere else for this cat to go.”

And so, she emailed Shawna Martinson, the school’s secretary for the past 15 years.

“She is really good at problem solving,” Freauff said when asked why Martinson was the first person she contacted. “And they have animals (and a cat carrier), and they know a lot of  people. I guessed (rightly) that she would be my best bet for help. We really have each other’s backs out here!”

Arriving armed, not only with the carrier, but also with her husband Todd, Martinson got straight to work, locating the cat inside an air intake tube and then coaxing it outside.

“It wasn’t scared it was just lethargic and like, ‘don’t put me back outside again,’” Shawna said of Penny’s condition when she arrived at the school. “I think it was hungry, it was old, it was [malnourished] and I thought at first it was hurt, but no, it was scared and hungry and desperate.”

Unwilling to adopt another cat – the couple have several, including one they rescued only two weeks prior –
the Martinsons did the only thing they could think of and took Penny to the Silver Creek Animal Clinic in Silverton.

“I thought we should take it to our own vet… and see if it had a chip,” Tod said. “And sure enough.”

To their surprise, Penny not only had a microchip but it revealed several facts about her that they almost couldn’t believe, including her age, which was 19 years old, and her address, nearly 25 miles away in South Salem.

“Where has this cat been?” Todd wondered. “And how did it get to Pratum?”

Unable to get in touch with the listed owners, Kathleen and Steve Carlson, that day, the Martinsons agreed to take Penny home but they didn’t put her in with the rest of their cats.

“She was scared and cold, so we put her in our guest bathroom,” Shawna recalled. “And she was quiet the whole night and the next day. She just snuggled and stayed there.”

Then they got the call they’d been hoping for from Kathleen, who let them in on another secret – Penny had been missing for nine years.

“It’s the craziest story ever,” Shawna said. Recounting the tale Kathleen told her.

It seemed Penny, the indoor-outdoor cat the couple adopted from the Humane Society 13 years ago, developed a close relationship with the woman who lived next door. When the neighbor was being transferred to assisted living due to poor health, she asked if she could take the cat. The Carlsons said yes. And that was the last time they saw her – until they picked her up at the Martinsons’ home.

“There’s no way the cat would have gotten back to the original owner if not for that chip,” Shawna marveled.

Freauff agrees.

“I could not believe my eyes when Shawna texted me that the cat was chipped,” she recalled. “And then to find out that the cat was 19 years old and that the original owners hadn’t seen her for 9 years. And that they wanted her back… It’s a Christmas Miracle! It’s just like those pet stories you read about – that happen somewhere else, to other people.”

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